The Battlefield, August 5, 2016: #Iransom

My column for the American Spectator is up this week, and it’s on that $400 million Barack Obama and his cabal in the White House secretly spirited to Tehran in exchange for the four Americans held hostage by the mullahs in that country.

There is simply no plausible way to deny that McCarthy is correct Obama provided material support to terrorism by transferring that $400 million to Iran. If nothing else, that ransom money paved the way for the Iranians to snatch more Americans in hopes of another big payday from Stupid Uncle Sam. If you don’t agree, then tell that to the family of Baquer Namazi, an 80-year old diplomat who was kidnapped by the Iranians in February, after that ransom was paid. Namazi’s son, Siamak, an energy executive, had already been snatched last October.

Or tell it to the crew of the two swiftboats the Iranians snatched in the Persian Gulf back in the spring; we haven’t been told what was given to the Iranians in return for their release following the humiliation they were subjected to.

There was a time when paying ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and an avowed American enemy without notice to or permission of Congress, made in a way skirting U.S. law and outside the view of the American people, would have been viewed as treason, and those carrying it out would have been subject to a trial and a potential hanging.

There was a time. Apparently, that time has passed. We are now told that this is “old news” because it happened months ago, that this money was actually Iran’s money because it represented assets frozen by America during hostilities decades in the past, and that it wasn’t ransom because it was an installment on a $1.7 billion settlement the U.S. was to pay to Iran over those frozen assets which was a coincidence.

Tell that last bit to Abedini, who couldn’t board a plane out of Mehrabad Airport in Tehran until the money came in. Tell it to the Iranians, who insisted on the installment arriving before boarding that plane. And tell it to the mullahs who specifically claimed it as ransom, before snatching more Americans.

I’ll admit, though, that Jonah Goldberg at National Review said it better

Here’s one possible reason from the Wall Street Journal exposé: “U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.”

Catch that? The Obama administration did not think the huge pallet of Swiss francs, euros, and other currencies dropped off in the dead of night was a ransom payment — they just wanted the Iranians to think it was.

And they bought it! “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies,” Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a Revolutionary Guard commander, boasted on Iranian state media.

Sometimes you just have to marvel at the way smart people can talk themselves into stupidity. The whole point of not paying ransoms to terrorists isn’t to save money. The reason we don’t pay kidnappers is that we understand that it will only encourage more kidnapping. So letting the Iranians think the $400 million was a ransom payment is doubly asinine, because it fooled exactly the wrong people, the wrong way. Who cares if the Obama administration “knew” it wasn’t a ransom? What mattered was to make it clear to the Iranians that it wasn’t a ransom, not give them every reason to believe it was.

Now, because of this pas-de-deux of asininity, not only have we given the Iranians untraceable walking-around money to give to its terrorist proxies, we’ve also given them every incentive to kidnap more Americans — which is exactly what they’ve been doing. But at least the folks at the State Department can sleep soundly knowing that they didn’t really pay a ransom — it just looks that way.

In the eighth year of the Obama administration, there is now no credible case anyone can make that this president acts to further American interests. He simply does not.

The debate, and at this point it’s one for historians to engage more than anyone else because the cake is already baked, is whether Obama’s departure from national interest as the driver of national policy comes out of incompetence and stupidity, or something more sinister.

That $400 million has bought a good deal of credence to the latter. It does not take a particularly learned or wise man to recognize that linking $400 million in unmarked bills arriving on wood pallets at the Tehran airport to the release of American captives will only create larger problems in the future.

Iran is an evil, bandit regime. The mullahs operate according to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, who was a bandit. Muhammad engaged in kidnapping for ransom and highway robbery, and so do the mullahs.

It isn’t so difficult to strategize against these people. When they issue a provocation, you apply enough pressure to them that they see the provocation as a mistake and then they don’t repeat it, and you offer to ease the pressure if they are willing to remedy the provocation. So if Iran kidnaps a Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor and American citizen of Iranian descent, you go out and find as many Iranian citizens the regime would care about who are in America and who might have overstayed a visa – or are here under diplomatic cover but may be suspected of espionage or other nefarious activities – and you arrest them. And then you make the exchange.

What you don’t do is pay the Iranians. Even if the argument could be made that they’re being paid with their own money, you don’t pay them. You might pay them their own money as a reward for good behavior – as in, they go an entire year without kidnapping any Americans.

And if the Iranians manufacture IED’s and give them to the Taliban to attack our troops in Afghanistan with, then the answer is to drone-strike the IED factory in the middle of the day and kill everyone who works there. If the Iranians infiltrate the Iraqi government and use it to persecute Sunni Iraqis, thus creating ISIS, the answer is to arm rebel factions inside Iran and start a civil war within that country.

Or if the Iranians provoke the U.S. Navy by running their boats too close to American frigates in the Persian Gulf, or capturing our swiftboats there, the answer is to sink every ship they have the way Ronald Reagan did.

That’s how you handle an enemy regime which lacks the power to go toe to toe with you. You demonstrate to them that you have no patience and no compunction about ruining their day. Dealing with their criminality by treating them as a good faith negotiating partner calls into question not so much your intelligence but your loyalty.

And lying to your own people about your negotiation tactics with an enemy… well, that seems to answer the question, doesn’t it?

 

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – The polls aren’t very good for Donald Trump.

Suffolk poll: Trump trails by 6 in Florida, 48/42

National poll: Clinton up 15 over Trump

One for the road: Clinton nearly doubles lead in new WSJ/NBC poll

Senate GOP on edge over Trump’s falling polls

AJC poll: Hillary Clinton has slim lead over Donald Trump in Georgia

If the election was today, Hillary Clinton would walk away with an electoral landslide that would make Trump look something like Walter Mondale.

We’ll refrain from the “I told you sos” at this point, because we know how impolite they are. But we do have a couple of questions to ask:

1. Does anybody really believe a run-of-the-mill Republican candidate wouldn’t be beating Hillary Clinton right now?

2. What cause for faith do you have that Trump can turn this around?

Our answer for #1 should be pretty obvious to our usual readers. But we can actually supply something for #2, except the Trumpsters won’t like it; namely, that Trump’s ace in the hole is Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services leaking damaging material on Clinton in advance of the election in order to meddle in the results. The best bump in the campaign Trump has received thus far came when the Russians leaked all those DNC e-mails to Wikileaks in advance of the convention. He doesn’t seem capable of engineering anything on his own, so now we depend on Putin to deliver the election to Trump.

That will have to pass for optimism among those who don’t want Hillary elected. Great election cycle, this.

 

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Things could always be worse. We could be Venezuelans.

The government of Venezuela has issued a decree that “effectively amounts to forced labor” in an attempt to fix a spiraling food crisis, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

A Venezuelan ministry last week announced Resolution No. 9855, which calls for the establishment of a “transitory labor regime” in order to relaunch the agricultural and food sector. The decree says that the government must do what is “necessary to achieve strategic levels of self-sufficiency,” and states that workers can be forcefully moved from their jobs to work in farm fields or elsewhere in the agricultural sector for periods of 60 days.

“Trying to tackle Venezuela’s severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

The law is vague in laying out exactly which workers can be forced to work in the farm sector, though it indicates that both public- and private-sector workers may be included. While working in food production, workers will be suspended from their regular jobs. They’ll be allowed to return to their original jobs upon the completion of service.

There is a term for this practice. That term is slavery; or perhaps more specifically indentured servitude.

But what’s really going on there isn’t just conscript labor, it’s a grandiose scam by the Maduro government. Because you can bet those with connections and currency will be able to bribe their way out of slavery while Juan Schmoe will have to rake and hoe in the hot sun.

This is a regime that badly, badly needs to be overthrown. Peacefully would be fine, but actually, if that regime goes down with the most savage violence possible it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world so long as the thugs running the place are the ones dead in the streets. We’ll call that justice.

 

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – And now for a Today’s Last Thing: Ahhhh, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is urging residents not to swim in dumpsters after a rented trash bin was filled with fire hydrant water and transformed into a pool.

The online news site Billy Penn first reported the shenanigans at a weekend block party. The party’s organizers told the site they power-washed the dumpster, lined the bottom with plywood and tarps and cushioned the corners with pool noodles.

However, filling it with hydrant water caused the biggest issue with city officials.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a statement saying the city won’t issue permits for block party dumpster pools.

Agency spokeswoman Karen Guss said, “you would think this decision would not require an explanation.”

Among the reasons: It takes water that should be available in the event of a fire; the strong water pressure could push someone into harm’s way; and the huge amount of water released could cause a main break.

“We are not screwing around, Philly,” Guss’ statement reads. “The city strongly recommends that residents opt for recreational options that are safer, more sanitary and less likely to deplete the resources firefighters need in an emergency.”

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